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Poster: light into ashes Date: May 24, 2011 1:05am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Avalon '68 Update

I, and everyone else, have always assumed that Pigpen was not at the October '68 Avalon shows because he'd been fired.

But it finally hit me that I, and everyone else, was wrong.
The evidence has been in front of me for a while, but I never noticed it...

Until I spotted an Archive reviewer for the 10/12/68 show who said:
"I was at this show. My first one! Jerry said Pig was at the hospital, cause his ol' lady was sick. The first song was Morning Dew."

You might say, yeah right, another online reviewer with false memories.
But he was right.

In mid-'66 Pigpen met the main love of his life, a black lady named Veronica. (Blair Jackson calls her Veronica Grant; McNally says Veronica Barnard.) She had moved in with him at 710 Ashbury, and later moved to Novato with him.
Garcia remembered, "They had one of those on-again, off-again relationships, but it was mainly on. I don't remember him ever having a long-term relationship with anybody but her."

In October '68, Veronica had a stroke.
Sue Swanson: "Pigpen called our house that morning, looking for Rock...and I could tell from his voice that something was really wrong. 'What's the matter?' 'Well, Veronica's had a stroke...' Veronica was a very close, dear friend of mine, like a big sister - and when Pigpen told me that I about lost it; I couldn't believe it. I said, 'What can I do?' and he said, 'Pray.' For Pigpen to say 'Pray' - well, it was the most serious thing I'd ever heard him say. It was obvious she was close to death."

Jon McIntire: "She couldn't walk or talk for quite a while. Her family took care of her and slowly she came back."
Laird Grant: "She didn't know who she was... Pigpen devoted himself to her as much as he could. She got back on her feet..."
McNally: "After her surgery, the band gathered around in support, and Jerry and Bobby came to her hospital room with guitars and encouraged her with a duo performance. Pig was her therapist through her recovery."
Tom Constanten: "Pigpen helped her pull through, and then later she stuck by him when he was having health problems."

I hadn't known the date of her stroke, but seeing the Archive comment, finally realized that it must have been before the Avalon shows. Pigpen was not sulking at home that week because he'd been fired, he was at the hospital with his girlfriend.

Which goes to show how much of our Dead 'knowledge' actually comes from old assumptions!

Anyway, Pigpen and Veronica stayed together for years after that. Until in November '72, they fought and split. According to McNally, Pigpen "sent Vee away, telling her, 'I don't want you around when I die.'"
Sue Swanson: "Veronica and Pig separated shortly before he died. My personal opinion...was that he knew what was happening, that he was dying, and he sent her away. There had been some friction between them. But I think he did it on purpose...because he knew what was coming."

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Poster: bkidwell Date: May 24, 2011 2:57am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Avalon '68 Update

Wow, great insight LIA, and an emotionally touching post.

This is completely speculative on my part, but since these events are so close in time to the infamous "firing", I wonder if they played a part in bringing the band back together, emotionally. Confronting mortality has a way of putting things in perspective and reminding us of the importance of human relationships, and perhaps this near tragedy was part of reminding the Grateful Dead that they were in some ways bound together by more than just music.

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Poster: AltheaRose Date: May 24, 2011 9:14am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Avalon '68 Update

Wow. I'm just struck by the fact that he was in his 20s and his girlfriend had a stroke. Presumably it wasn't a Harold and Maude type of thing, either. 20s or 30s, and a stroke? Geez. And the same time that the firing/sort-of-firing was going on ... poor Pig. Not a good month. That certainly adds to the understanding of that time, regardless of how it impacts/doesn't impact/sort of impacts this particular show.

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Poster: William Tell Date: May 24, 2011 12:17pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Avalon '68 Update

I think it shows that they were damn good without Pig; sad perhaps, but true. However, as much as it pains me to say it [ ;) ], Bob was important. 12 Oct 68 is ranked as one of the top ten for 68 by most everyone with good reason; however, none of the HBeat shows gets much more than passing interest. Sure, they were transitioning from the dance band with a vital role for Ron in the long dance jams (MHr, LL, etc), and his role would continue to be impt, but to me it proves that they could have moved on without him right then and there, BUT not so concerning Bob.

There, that should make Ring smile. I said it.

And sorry, LiA; didn't mean to sound so...well, almost confrontational in the post above...cranky old farts and such--my bad.

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Poster: light into ashes Date: May 24, 2011 1:16pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Avalon '68 Update

It struck me too, that between the other bandmembers griping about kicking him out, and his girlfriend being near-death, it must have been a pretty awful time for Pigpen!

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Poster: elbow1126 Date: May 24, 2011 3:18am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Avalon '68 Update

A very interesting possibility, however it is based on a reviewer who says that Morning Dew was the first song. I never heard anyone suggest that the sources for this show were incomplete. Bob's ladies choice/foxtrot comments always sounded like the beginning of a set and the next night the show starts exactly the same way with Dark Star.

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Poster: light into ashes Date: May 24, 2011 12:42pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Avalon '68 Update

I also thought the Dew attribution was intriguing but questionable. Who remembers the first song of a show 30 years later?
Perhaps this guy actually went to the 13th - where the recording cuts in during Dark Star, leaving the possibility of another opening song - though that would make the set longer than usual.

But the Dew isn't important. I think it likely that Jerry or someone may have said SOMETHING about Pigpen that wasn't captured on our tapes - consider that in late '72, the band had to explain to every audience that Pigpen wasn't there because he was home sick. An audience of Dead fans in late '68 may have been just as curious.

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Poster: elbow1126 Date: May 24, 2011 12:50pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Avalon '68 Update

I agree that Jerry might have said that and i assume like you, i tried to listen to the banter before Bob introduces Dark Star and couldn't make heads or tails out of it other than someone requesting Alligator. I guess they didn't notice Pig's absence! I just wonder if Jerry would have said that to deflect attention to issues within the band. Even in '72, Bob discusses Pig's absence at one point, but also states that they hope that he will be back with them soon. I doubt by the fall of '72 they really believed that was a likely scenario but saw no reason to say "Pig is home dying."

What none of this takes into account is that Pig's firing could have been related to Veronica's health. What if Jerry thought he was slipping or distracted and he sent him away? Then Jerry would not have been lying to the folks at the Avalon, right?

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Poster: William Tell Date: May 24, 2011 6:58am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Avalon '68 Update

Not sure it's relevant. Seriously. It's what Jerry would say regardless. We know they were fired at some pt, we know they missed some shows in early Oct as a result, and then perhaps this is the one for some reason they needed to play as the DEAD (why is Bob there afterall? the "myth" is he hung around more, and Pig didn't...going to see her was the perfect out?).

So, what really needs to be determined is why didn't the two of them play at all the Hbeat shows in the first 20 days of Oct, but at a few others, early in Sep and late in Oct.

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Poster: skuzzlebutt Date: May 24, 2011 10:36am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Avalon '68 Update

"...but at a few others, early in Sep and late in Oct."

Hey Will, I guess this is where I am a little confused by all of this, because to me the smoking gun of any such "firing" would an actual Grateful Dead show without Pig and Bob. So you're saying there were shows- billed as Grateful Dead concerts - without both? Or are you talking about other Hartbeats shows during this period? Both you and LiA have a much better grasp of the minutiae of '68 than I do, so pardon my flailing away here. I've read his previous posts on this episode, but it seems to only grow murkier for me.

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Poster: William Tell Date: May 24, 2011 11:43am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Avalon '68 Update

Well, I dunno much more either! I think, though, that in fact all those shows sans BOTH were labeled something else, and this Avalon one was not. IE, it were called the DEAD as I understand it. Now, my pt was it was classic Jer to say what the reviewer said, even if they wanted to go without Bob & Pig, but Bob showed, and no one said that he couldn't play. Or, the promoters said, "hey, we booked you all" and so they did ask Bob and Pig, and Pig said "no, old lady's hurtin" OR "F You! cause you fired me two wks ago!" and Jer covered for him...

All we really now is: 1) everyone tells a story that indicates at one pt early that fall someone tells Bob and Ron, "you're out"; 2) simultaneously (or close, but see below) the rest of the band starts playing shows without the two of them, and your EXCELLENT question is unanswered, at least by me, since I don't know if ANY were labeled anything other than "HBeats". 3) Bob is hurt, but hangs around the band, and Ron is pissed, but eventually comes back. 4) Everyone quickly forgets about it, and things return to "normal".

This all happens relatively quickly as there are shows in early Sept with all of them, and shows in Oct with all of them...plus, there are HBeat shows (highest # is early Oct) throughout the fall, even in Dec, and even earlier (eg, Jun).

So, we are all confused; and trust, I didn't mean to imply LiA hadn't found something of potential value, but knowing they played a show as "the DEAD" was already out there, given the posters for the Avalon. What we really need to know is: did someone tell B & R NOT to show, and it would've been the first example of what you are getting at? And only Bob did cause he was a hang-dog faced kid? And Pig didn't cause he was macho OR needed to attend to his squeeze?

Good thing I only follow a few yrs--they're confused enough for one lifetime of inquiry!

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Poster: light into ashes Date: May 24, 2011 1:00pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Avalon '68 Update

Actually, we don't know that they missed any Dead shows. It's quite possible that Weir played at every Dead show that fall, and Pigpen too aside from this one run. I don't think I've found any other lost show where someone remembers that Weir wasn't there. There was, though, a stretch of a couple weeks in September where the Dead didn't play any shows, and even recorded in the studio without Weir & Pigpen - so I'd guess that's where the "crisis point" was.

Since the Hartbeats were formed specifically for Weir & Pigpen not to show up, it's no wonder they didn't show up! The idea seems to have been for Jerry, Phil & the drummers to jam with other musicians. But while the "Hartbeats" concept continued for a while, it's notable that even Phil didn't show up most the time either, feeling uncomfortable with it. (And when the Hartbeats resurfaced in 1970, Weir was part of it.)

You're right that IF Jerry said something like "Pig's ol' lady's sick," he may have been covering up. What struck me was that, indeed, Pigpen's old lady WAS seriously sick, and we know from other sources that he was spending lots of time at the hospital with her that month.
So I'm now thinking that if not for the stroke, Pigpen would have been at the Avalon.
But you're right in one sense, that it shows how "dispensable" Pigpen was. They could easily go on without him. But - they preferred to have him there.

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Poster: William Tell Date: May 24, 2011 9:20pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Avalon '68 Update

Right; and at one level, you could say they were potentially trying to go it alone (ie, the four others sans Bob & Ron), although it didn't really "take". In essence, they played it safe (ie, booking DEAD shows almost simultaneously with the "firing", or kept dates already on the fall books) while experimenting with the HBeats format. Though that didn't go far, it apparently was enough fun to have drawn them in a number of times during the second half of 68.

And yeah--I'd defn agree that the latter part of Sept seems the likely date of the "firing"...it may have also helped that they knew TC was coming? Still, Ron seemed necessary...

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Poster: skuzzlebutt Date: May 24, 2011 6:43am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Avalon '68 Update

Thanks for this update, LiA. Very interesting. And with Pig's absence at the Avalon now explained....well, can we even call it a "firing" if no one ever got fired? That is, do we have any shows (billed as being the GD, that is) from fall '68 missing Bob or Pig? The Hartbeats thing almost looks like a side project rather than any sort of attempt to configure a "new" GD.

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Poster: light into ashes Date: May 24, 2011 12:48pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Avalon '68 Update

Having written a whole post on the subject -
http://deadessays.blogspot.com/2011/03/1968-firing.html -
I have to say I find the issue quite murky as well.
While there were no doubt lots of hard feelings backstage, it seems that if there was a "firing", it didn't take for very long. October '68 actually seems to have been when things were patched up.
We're missing several Dead shows from October, so there's no telling if Pigpen (or Weir) didn't show up for any of them besides 10/12-13.
The Hartbeats were intentionally designed as a sideband where Pigpen & Weir were not involved.

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Poster: elbow1126 Date: May 24, 2011 7:36am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Avalon '68 Update

I just read the review that you speak of and he (i am assuming a he) also says he thinks what is available here is only the second set. That would suggest that this is a 3 set show? How unlikely is that? Based on the material played at this show and what they were playing during this period, other than Dew what non-Pig songs could they have filled a first set with? It seems like most of the time the Grateful Dead were playing in the fall, the setlist had the elements of the Avalon shows, plus Dew and Pig songs (Alligator, Caution, Schoolgirl were regulars).

I suspect that if the reviewer is correctly remembering what Jerry said, then WT is correct and that Jerry said this to deflect attention from what was probably the firing. This would of course mean that Veronica's stroke and the firing were in the same time period.

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Poster: light into ashes Date: May 24, 2011 1:20pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Avalon '68 Update

As far as the timeline goes, the "firing" or "almost-firing" seems to have taken place in September. It was October when Veronica had her stroke.

To condense McNally:
After the band-meeting in late August where they complained about Weir's playing, "Though Weir and Pigpen were theoretically fired, they continued to perform at gigs... In early October the band discovered how they would be able to 'fire' Weir & Pigpen - and it would not involve firing. Instead, they would start an additional band, in which the other four musicians, plus occasional guests, would play freeform instrumental-only music."

McNally also has an interesting parenthetical note that one of the Dead's Carousel managers (Bert Kanegson) had moved to Hawaii in July '68 - in August Veronica called him "telling him that the band was breaking up and to come home." He returned to SF and looked for a new rehearsal space for the band.
I wish there were more details, because that makes it sound like Veronica was more involved with the band than we know - part of "the family", as it were. You can imagine how alarmed she might have been about Pigpen's role if she'd call one of the Dead's old managers to help keep the band together!

McNally then mentions the Avalon run in mid-October, Weir's miserable birthday on October 16, and then talks about Veronica's stroke "that month" and Pigpen's efforts to help her.

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Poster: light into ashes Date: May 28, 2011 9:40pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Avalon '68 Update

This is a very late comment, but it finally occurred to me that the Avalon reviewer I quoted may have gone to the show on October ELEVENTH. (Which we don't have on tape.)
It would explain why he remembers a Morning Dew opener, and why he thinks there's a "missing set" in the show he's hearing now. And as the first show of the run, it may also account for Jerry making a comment about the missing Pigpen.

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Poster: Lou Davenport Date: May 24, 2011 6:17am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Avalon '68 Update

Very interesting, LiA--thanks for putting that together and sharing it. Now may be the time to activate the Dead-Heads-in-San-Francisco sleeper cell for some hospital break-ins, to look for October 1968 records so we can confirm the exact date.

Tragic if Morning Dew was actually the opener on October 12, since as they stand those are thought to be the only two GD shows in history with identical set lists.

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